Thirty Years of Home
July 19th, 2016
As I write this, I’m sitting at the dining room table at my parents’ house in the small Midwest town I grew up in. My parents have lived in this house in this town for more than thirty years. I have a lifetime of memories wrapped up in this place and I can get pretty nostalgic when the kids and I come ‘home’ for vacation each summer.
Turning onto my parents’ street, I remember learning to ride my bike ‘no hands,’ coasting down the gentle slope of the road, arms stretched out to my sides. And the time in elementary school that my best friend split her chin, wiping out on a scooter at the bottom of the steep driveway next door.
There was a huge maple tree in the backyard when I was little, with a round plastic swing. I could kick off of the tree and fly in huge, lazy arcs. The tree is gone, but my play house is still there, now doing service as a garden shed. I’d climb onto the roof to read and once rigged a hammock in a nearby tree branch using a bedsheet.
I look out the front windows of the house and remember falling in love with the boy across the street when I was sixteen years old. Watching from my bedroom for the light in his bedroom. I remember prom pictures on the front porch and waking up to toilet paper adorning the trees the morning after graduation.
My dad turned my bedroom into an office years ago but never bothered to take down the grey and pink checkered wallpaper. Looking at the ceiling, I can still see the faint residue of sticky-tac from the posters I’d hang – first of horses, then of boys. (Whatever happened to Jonathan Taylor Thomas anyways?)
Once upon a time, I knew every inch of that house – which floorboards creak on the stairs and how to avoid them as I snuck downstairs during a grownup dinner party. Falling asleep on the stairway landing, listening to the murmur of voices and the clink of silverware and glasses. The grandfather clock in the living room whose chime ordered our days – and the smell of its brass pendulum and weights when I would open the door to wind it.
When we come to visit, my kids play with toys that I remember loving. A Fisher Price castle, complete with bright pink dragon. A whole box of those ridiculous troll dolls of the mid 1990s with their crazy hair and vaguely creepy smiles. My youngest daughter spends happy hours methodically removing their clothing.
A lot of people have asked me if I’m going to stay in Danville, post-divorce. And the answer is yes. I have always dreamed of giving my kids the life I remember from my childhood. A house packed with memories. Friendships stretching back decades. Routines and rituals created through years of loving repetition. I want my kids to build memories anchored in place, even though I’m sure they’ll chafe against that place when they get older. Teenagers are always eager to leave the house. But I want it to be there when they come back; safe harbor from any storm, solid and reassuring and home.